United States District Court, D. Arizona
Robert Glenn Kline, Plaintiff: Mark Ross Caldwell, LEAD
ATTORNEY, Mark Caldwell PC, Phoenix, AZ.
Carolyn W Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security
Administration, Defendant: Kathryn Ann Miller, LEAD ATTORNEY,
Social Security Administration, Seattle, WA.
G. Campbell, United States District Judge.
to Plaintiff's unopposed motion to amend (Doc. 30),
Robert Glenn Kline seeks review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security,
which denied him disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income under sections 216(i), 223(d),
and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. Because the
decision of the Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" )
was not supported by substantial evidence and was based on
legal error, the decision will be vacated and the matter
remanded for an award of benefits.
is a 53 year old male who previously worked as a recreational
vehicle repairer. On March 29, 2010, Plaintiff applied for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income, alleging disability beginning December
2007. On January 23, 2013, he appeared with
his attorney and testified at a hearing before an ALJ. A
vocational expert also testified. On March 13, 2013, the ALJ
issued a decision that Plaintiff was not disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act. The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review of the hearing
decision, making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final decision.
district court reviews only those issues raised by the party
challenging the ALJ's decision. See Lewis v.
Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 517 n.13 (9th Cir. 2001). The court
may set aside the Commissioner's disability determination
only if the determination is not supported by substantial
evidence or is based on legal error. Orn v. Astrue,
495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is
more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and
relevant evidence that a reasonable person might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion considering the record as a
whole. Id. In determining whether substantial
evidence supports a decision, the court must consider the
record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a
" specific quantum of supporting evidence."
Id. As a general rule, " [w]here the evidence
is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one
of which supports the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's
conclusion must be upheld." Thomas v. Barnhart,
278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).
The ALJ's Five-Step Evaluation
determine whether a claimant is disabled for purposes of the
Social Security Act, the ALJ follows a five-step process. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). The claimant bears the burden of
proof on the first four steps, but the burden shifts to the
Commissioner at step five. Tackett v. Apfel, 180
F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999).
first step, the ALJ determines whether the claimant is
engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i). If so, the claimant is not disabled and
the inquiry ends. Id. At step two, the ALJ
determines whether the claimant has a " severe"
medically determinable physical or mental impairment. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If not, the claimant is not disabled and
the inquiry ends. Id. At step three, the ALJ
considers whether the claimant's impairment or
combination of impairments meets or medically equals an
impairment listed in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Pt.
404. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If so, the claimant is
automatically found to be disabled. Id. If not, the
ALJ proceeds to step four. At step four, the ALJ assesses the
claimant's residual functional capacity and determines
whether the claimant is still capable of performing past
relevant work. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If so, the claimant
is not disabled and the inquiry ends. Id. If not,
the ALJ proceeds to the fifth and final step, where he
determines whether the claimant can perform any other work
based on the claimant's residual functional capacity,
age, education, and work experience. §
404.1520(a)(4)(v). If so, the claimant is not disabled.
Id. If not, the claimant is disabled. Id.
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31,
2014, and that he had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since his alleged onset date. A.R. 22. At step two,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: sleep apnea, degenerative disc disease of the
lumbar and thoracic spine, fibromyalgia, obesity, major
depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, " carpal tunnel
syndrome status post release surgery," and " status
post removal of hardware -- right ankle." Id.
At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled an impairment listed in Appendix 1 to
Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404. A.R. 28. At step four, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except the
claimant is able to occasionally balance, stoop, crouch,
kneel, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs. The claimant should
never operate foot controls with his right lower extremity,
or be required to climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The
claimant should also avoid concentrated exposure to
non-weather related extreme hot, extreme cold, pulmonary
irritants, poorly ventilated areas, dangerous with moving
mechanical parts, and exposure to unprotected heights. The
claimant will also require a position having simple
repetitive and routine tasks that can be learned through
demonstration, without the reading of
further found Plaintiff unable to perform any of his past
relevant work. A.R. 36. At step five, the ALJ concluded that,
considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and residual functional capacity, there were jobs that
existed in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff could perform, including " ...